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Kats run past FIU in CUSA quarterfinal

Mar. 13—HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — In its Conference USA tournament debut, Sam Houston showed exactly why they are the top seed from the conference.

After going down early, the Bearkats flipped the script on Florida International to get the opening game win and earn themselves a day of rest.

The Bearkats had five members hit double figures in points, along with a double-double from Kian Scroggins, to run past the Panthers, 78-59.

FIU headed into the game coming off a key victory Tuesday night to stay alive in the tournament. The Panthers (11-21, 5-11) were the ninth seed entering the Conference tournament and had to fight off Jacksonville State in the first round.

Despite having the momentum from last night, Sam Houston got out to major runs early on to build up a lead. Damon Nicholas Jr. had a 5-0 run by himself to add to the Kats' 16-0 run in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Scroggins played a major part in that as he finished the first half with eight points but his six rebounds were the key to the Bearkats' success.

Sam Houston did what they do on the glass and hauled in 47 boards, 21 more than the Panthers and had 17 offensive boards to land them 12 second-chance points.

The threat for the Bearkats has always been the way they play together as a team despite the roles they are in. Cameron Huefner was a starter last season but has become more of a sixth man after a shoulder injury. While he didn't get the start he played 29 minutes for the Kats and added 12 points.

Scroggins added to the bench total with 11 points as the Bearkat reserves tallied 38 points in the 40 minutes, 22 more points than FIU's.

Panther senior guard Javaunte Hawkins was the focal point for FIU this season and brought that into the quarterfinal games. Hawkins opened the game by scoring all eight of the Panther's points and grabbed the early lead.

But he went cold for a little bit as Sam Houston started to find its legs.

Hawkins finished with a game-high 20 points just ahead of teammate Arturo Dean who had 16.

Sam Houston continued its ways with Davon Barnes, Lamar Wilkerson, Marcus Boykin, Huefner and Scroggins with double-digit points.

As they finished as the top seed, the Bearkats will get an off-day tomorrow as they still await their opponent in the semi-final game. Sam Houston will get the winner of the Liberty and UTEP game that will be played at 5:30 p.m. CT Thursday in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Bearkats will return to the court at 11:30 a.m. Friday against the winner of that game. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Net.